23 June 2014


Making world headlines, in a 310-303 vote, the Presbyterian Church in the USA has voted at its biennial general assembly in Detroit (USA) to divest completely from three companies doing business with Israel, they are: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola. The 1,8 million member Presbyterian Church (USA) currently holds over $21 million in the three companies, all of which will be dis-invested.


BDS South Africa, a South African human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, welcomed this historic move by the Presbyterian Church. Kwara Kekana, Campaigns Officer at BDS South Africa, said over the weekend: “This is a watershed moment for the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement. The dis-investment from companies involved in Israel by the Presbyterian Church reminds us of how several international churches dis-invested from companies involved in Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s. That this vote took place in the USA also shows that the Israeli regime is loosing support in a country it once considered its greatest ally.”


Palestinian human rights activist and prominent BDS leader, Omar Barghouti, welcomed what he termed a “sweet victory” saying that the Presbyterians: “Have given the Palestinian people real hope in the face of the relentless cruelty of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.” Barghouti added that: “Presbyterian human rights activists have proven that corporations that are profiting from Israel’s regime of injustice against the Palestinians will pay a steadily increasing price for their complicity until they withdraw from all the illegal Israeli projects that violate Palestinian rights.”


Rifaat Kassis, a Palestinian Christian who traveled from Bethlehem to urge the Presbyterians to vote for divestment, said in a New York Times interview that the Presbyterian sends a loud message to Palestinians that says, “You are not alone.” (click here)



Whilst the Israeli government and lobby in the USA slammed the Presbyterian Church, several progressive Jewish Rabbis, organizations and activists welcomed the news of dis-investment. In fact, the group Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), a Jewish organization that is critical of Israel’s human rights abuses and supportive of the Palestinian struggle, was one of the many organizations in recent months that had joined the call for the Presbyterian Church to boycott Israel. In Detroit, at the convention center of the Presbyterian Church’s biennial general assembly, young progressive Jewish activists wore black T-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” (click here for image or here)


On their website, JVP issued a statement following the Presbyterian vote saying: “We are grateful to the Presbyterians for showing a real commitment to understanding both legitimate anti-Semitism and Palestinian oppression – and deciding that opposing both is the path to true interfaith partnerships.”


Rabbi Alissa Wise, director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), said that divestment from Israel can serve a constructive purpose: “To me, this helps Palestinians build their power so that Israel is convinced, not by force, but by global consensus that something has to change.”


Kwara Kekana of BDS South Africa commented: “There are many Jews that support the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid, just as how there were many White South Africans that opposed South African Apartheid. Being anti-Israeli cannot be equated with anti-Semitism. We hope that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, that is well known for its support of Apartheid Israel, takes note and ends its support of Israeli Apartheid.”



Speaking to the Huffington Post Newspaper, Elizabeth Dunning, moderator of the church Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, explained that the Presbyterian church singled out Caterpillar because its bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes by Israel (click here). Motorola Solutions was targeted, according to Dunning, because the Israeli Defense Force buys communication technologies from Motorola and that Hewlett-Packard was selected because the Israeli Navy has used its products to coordinate the blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip and because its biometric scanners are in place at Israeli checkpoints that restrict the daily movement of Palestinians.


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